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Dean Gooderham Acheson

In office
January 21, 1949 – January 20, 1953
President Harry Truman
Preceded by George Marshall
Succeeded by John Foster Dulles

Born April 11, 1893
Middletown, Connecticut
United States
Died October 12, 1971 (aged 78)
Sandy Spring, Maryland
United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Alice Stanley
Children David Acheson
Jane Acheson
Mary Acheson
Alma mater Yale College
Harvard Law School
Profession Lawyer
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States National Guard
Battles/wars World War II

Dean Gooderham Acheson (April 11, 1893 – October 12, 1971) was an American statesman and lawyer; as United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman during 1949–1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War.[1] He likewise played a central role in the creation of many important institutions, including Lend Lease, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, together with the early organizations that later became the European Union and the World Trade Organization. His most famous decision was convincing Truman to intervene, in June 1950, in the Korean War. Historians have argued, "Dean Acheson was more than 'present at the creation' of the Cold War; he was a primary architect."[2]

Acheson came under heavy attack for his policies in China and for his defense of State Department employees accused during Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist investigations. Acheson was instrumental in framing U.S. policy toward Vietnam, persuading Truman to dispatch aid and advisors to French forces in Indochina, though in 1968 he finally counseled President Lyndon B. Johnson to negotiate for peace with North Vietnam. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy called upon Acheson for advice, bringing him into the executive committee (ExComm), a strategic advisory group.


Early life and career

Dean Acheson was born in Middletown, Connecticut. His father, Edward Campion Acheson, was an English-born Church of England priest who, after several years in Canada, moved to the U.S. to become Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut. His mother, Eleanor Gertrude Gooderham, was a granddaughter of prominent Canadian distiller William Gooderham (1790–1881), founder of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Like his father, he was a staunch Democrat and opponent of prohibition.

Acheson attended Groton School and Yale College (1912–1915), where he joined Scroll and Key Society, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa[3] and was a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter). At Groton and Yale he had the reputation of a partier and prankster; he was somewhat aloof but still popular with his classmates. Acheson's well-known, reputed arrogance—he disdained the curriculum at Yale as focusing on memorizing subjects already known or not worth knowing more about—was early apparent. At Harvard Law School from 1915 to 1918, however, he was swept away by the intellect of professor Felix Frankfurter and finished fifth in his class, while rooming with songster Cole Porter.

During wartime service in the National Guard, in 1917 he married Alice Stanley. She loved painting and politics and served as a stabilizing influence throughout their enduring marriage; they had three children: David, Jane, and Mary. At that time, a new tradition of bright law students clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court had been begun by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, for whom Acheson clerked for two terms from 1919 to 1921. Frankfurter and Brandeis were close associates, and future Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter suggested that Brandeis take on Acheson.[4]

Economic diplomacy

A lifelong Democrat, Acheson worked at a law firm in Washington D.C., Covington & Burling, often dealing with international legal issues before Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed him Undersecretary of the United States Treasury in 1933. When Secretary William H. Woodin fell ill, Acheson suddenly found himself acting secretary despite his ignorance of finance. Because of his opposition to FDR's plan to inflate the dollar by controlling gold prices, he was forced to resign in November 1933 and resumed his law practice.[5] In 1939-1940 he headed a committee to study the operation of administrative bureaus in the federal government.

World War II

FDR brought Acheson back as assistant secretary of state in 1941, where he developed much of the economic warfare waged by the United States against the Axis Powers.[6] He designed the American/British/Dutch oil embargo that cut off 95 percent of Japanese oil supplies and escalated the crisis with Japan in 1941. Historians debate whether Roosevelt fully understood and approved the scope of the embargo, but there is no doubt Acheson knew it could produce war.[7]

Postwar planning

In 1944, Acheson played a central role in the Bretton Woods Conference as the head delegate from the State Department. At this conference the post-war international economic structure was designed. The conference was the birthplace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the last of which would evolve into the World Trade Organization.

Cold War diplomacy

Official portrait

Later, in 1945, Harry S. Truman selected Acheson as his Undersecretary of United States Department of State; he retained this position working under Secretaries of State Stettinius, Byrnes, and Marshall.

As late as 1945 Acheson sought détente with the Soviet Union. In 1946, as chairman of a special committee to prepare a plan for the international control of atomic energy, he wrote the Acheson-Lilienthal report. At first Acheson was conciliatory towards Stalin. The Soviet Union's attempts at regional hegemony in Eastern Europe and in Southwest Asia, however, changed his thinking. When he realized the Soviets were working outside traditional diplomatic channels, Acheson became a devoted and influential cold warrior.[8] The Secretary was often overseas, making Acheson acting Secretary. During this period, Acheson cemented a close relationship with President Truman. Acheson devised the policy and wrote Truman's 1947 request to Congress for aid to Greece and Turkey, a speech which stressed the dangers of totalitarianism rather than Soviet aggression and marked the fundamental change in American foreign policy that became known as the Truman Doctrine.[9] Acheson designed the economic aid program to Europe that became known as the Marshall Plan. Acheson believed the best way to contain Stalin's Communism and prevent future European conflict was to restore economic prosperity to Western Europe, to encourage interstate cooperation there, and to help the American economy by making its trading partners richer.

In 1949, Acheson was appointed Secretary of State. In this position he built a working framework for containment, first formulated by George Kennan, who served as the head of Acheson's Policy Planning Staff. Acheson was the main designer of the military alliance NATO, and signed the pact for the United States. The formation of NATO was a dramatic departure from historic American foreign policy goals of avoiding any "entangling alliances."

The White Paper Defense

During the summer of 1949 the state department, headed by Acheson, produced a study of recent Sino-American relations. The document known officially as United States Relations with China with Special Reference to the Period 1944-1949, which later was simply called the China White Paper, attempted to dismiss any misinterpretations of Chinese and American diplomacy toward each other.[10] Published during the height of Mao Zedong's takeover, the 1,054 page document argued that American intervention in China was doomed to failure. Although Acheson and Truman had hoped that the study would dispel rumors and conjecture,[11] the paper helped to convince many critics that the administration had indeed failed to check the spread of communism in China.[12]

Korean war

Acheson's speech on January 12, 1950, before the National Press Club [13] seemed to say that South Korea was beyond the American defense line and that American support for the new Syngman Rhee government in South Korea would be limited. Critics later charged that Acheson's ambiguity provided Joseph Stalin and Kim Il-sung with reason to believe the US would not intervene if they invaded the South. However, evidence from Korean and Soviet archives demonstrates that Stalin and Kim's decisions were not influenced by Acheson's speech.[14]

Partisan attacks

With the Communist takeover of mainland China in 1949, that country switched from a close friend of the U.S. to a bitter enemy—the two powers were at war in Korea by 1950. Critics blamed Acheson for what they called the "loss of China" and launched several years of organized opposition to Acheson's tenure; Acheson ridiculed his opponents and called this period in his outspoken memoirs "The Attack of the Primitives." Although he maintained his role as a firm anti-communist, he was attacked by various anti-communists for not taking a more active role in attacking communism abroad and domestically, rather than hew to Acheson's policy of containment of communist expansion. Both he and Secretary of Defense George Marshall came under attack from men such as Joseph McCarthy; Acheson became a byword to some Americans, who tried to equate containment with appeasement. Congressman Richard Nixon, who later as President would call on Acheson for advice, ridiculed "Acheson's College of Cowardly Communist Containment." This criticism grew very loud after Acheson refused to 'turn his back on Alger Hiss' when the latter was accused of being a Communist spy, and convicted (of perjury for denying he was a spy).

On December 15, 1950, the Republicans in the House of Representatives resolved unanimously that he be removed from office, to no avail.[citation needed]

Return to private life

He retired as secretary of state on Jan. 20, 1953, and served on the Yale Board of Trustees along with Senator Robert A. Taft, one of his sharpest critics.

Acheson returned to his private law practice. Although his official governmental career was over, his influence was not. He was ignored by the Eisenhower administration but headed up Democratic Policy Groups in the late 1950s. Much of President John F. Kennedy's flexible response policies came from the position papers drawn up by this group.

Acheson's law offices were strategically located a few blocks from the White House and he accomplished much out of office. He became an unofficial advisor to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, he was dispatched by Kennedy to France to brief French President Charles de Gaulle and gain his support for the United States blockade.

During the 1960s, he was a leading member of a bipartisan group of establishment elders known as The Wise Men who initially supported the Vietnam War but then turned against it at a critical meeting with President Lyndon Johnson in March 1968. He reconciled with his old foe Richard Nixon and quietly became a major advisor to President Nixon.

In 1964, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1970, he won the Pulitzer Prize for History for his memoirs of his tenure in the State Department, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department.

In 1971, Dean Acheson died of a massive stroke at his farm in Sandy Spring, Maryland at the age of 78. He was survived by a son, David C. Acheson, and a daughter, Mary Acheson Bundy, wife of William P. Bundy.


  1. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 6
  2. ^ Randall Bennett Woods, "The Good Shepherd," Reviews in American History, Volume 35, Number 2, June 2007, pp. 284-288
  3. ^ Brennan, Elizabeth A., Clarage, Elizabeth C.Who's who of Pulitzer Prize winners, Greenwood, 1999, p. 290
  4. ^ Beisner (2006)
  5. ^ Acheson explained his opposition to this plan, and described his experience as Treasury Undersecretary in the chapter "Brief Encounter — With FDR" in his 1965 memoir Morning and Noon (pp. 161–194).
  6. ^ Perlmutter, Oscar William (1961). "Acheson and the Diplomacy of World War II". The Western Political Quarterly 14 (4): 896–911. doi:10.2307/445090. 
  7. ^ Irvine H. Anderson, Jr., "The 1941 De Facto Embargo on Oil to Japan: A Bureaucratic Reflex," The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 44, No. 2. (May, 1975), pp. 201-231. in JSTOR
  8. ^ Beisner (1996)
  9. ^ Frazier 1999
  10. ^ Robert Garson, "The United States and China since 1949," (1994) pp. 27-33
  11. ^ Lewis McCarroll Purifoy, "Harry Truman's China Policy," (1976) pp. 125-150
  12. ^ Neil L. O'Brien, "An American Editor in Early Revolutionary China," (2003) pp. 169-170
  13. ^ Excerpts
  14. ^ David S. McLellan, "Dean Acheson and the Korean War," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 1 (Mar., 1968), pp. 16-39 in JSTOR


  • Acheson, Dean (1965). Morning and Noon: A Memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  • Beisner, Robert L. Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War. (2006), 800 pp
  • Beisner, Robert L. "Patterns of Peril: Dean Acheson Joins the Cold Warriors, 1945-46." Diplomatic History 1996 20(3): 321-355. Issn: 0145-2096 Fulltext: in Swetswise and Ebsco
  • Brinkley, Douglas. Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-71. 1992. 429 pp.
  • Brinkley, Douglas, ed. Dean Acheson and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy. 1993. 271 pp. essays by scholars
  • Chace, James. Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World. (1998). 512 pp.
  • Frazier, Robert. "Acheson and the Formulation of the Truman Doctrine." Journal of Modern Greek Studies 1999 17(2): 229-251. Issn: 0738-1727 in Project Muse
  • Garson, Robert. "The United States and China since 1949: A Troubled Affair." Fairleigh Dickinson U. Press, Madison, 1994: pp. 27-33 ISBN 0-8386-3610-1
  • Goulden, Joseph C. (1971). The Superlawyers: The Small and Powerful World of the Great Washington Law Firms. New York: Weybright and Talley. 
  • Harper, John Lamberton. American Visions of Europe: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson. Cambridge U. Press, 1994. 378 pp.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years (1999) online edition
  • Isaacson, Walter, and Evan Thomas. The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1997) 864pp; covers Acheson and colleagues Charles E. Bohlen, W. Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett, and John J. McCloy; excerpt and text search
  • Leffler, Melvyn P. "Strategy, Diplomacy, and the Cold War: the United States, Turkey, and NATO, 1945-1952" Journal of American History 1985 71(4): 807-825. in JSTOR* McGlothlen, Ronald L. Controlling the Waves: Dean Acheson and US Foreign Policy in Asia (1993) online edition
  • McLellan, David S. "Dean Acheson and the Korean War," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 1 (Mar., 1968), pp. 16-39 in JSTOR
  • McNay, John T. Acheson and Empire: The British Accent in American Foreign Policy (2001) online edition
  • Merrill, Dennis. "The Truman Doctrine: Containing Communism and Modernity" Presidential Studies Quarterly 2006 36(1): 27-37. online edition at Blackwell Synergy
  • O'Brien, Neil L. "An American Editor in Early Revolutionary China: John William Powell and the China Weekly/Monthly Review." Routledge, New York, 2003: pp. 169-170 ISBN 0-415-94424-4
  • Offner, Arnold A. "'Another Such Victory': President Truman, American Foreign Policy, and the Cold War." Diplomatic History 1999 23(2): 127-155. online in Blackwell Synergy
  • Offner, Arnold A. Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War. (2002) 640pp, highly negative excerpts and text search
  • Perlmutter, Oscar William. "The 'Neo-Realism' of Dean Acheson," The Review of Politics, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Jan., 1964), pp. 100-123 in JSTOR
  • Perlmutter, Oscar William. "Acheson and the Diplomacy of World War II," The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 1961), pp. 896-911 in JSTOR
  • Purifoy, Lewis McCarroll. "Harry Truman's China Policy." Franklin Watts, New York, 1976: pp. 125-150 ISBN 0-531-05386-5
  • Spalding, Elizabeth Edwards. The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism (2006)

Books by Acheson

  • Power and Diplomacy (1958)
  • Acheson, Dean (1965). Morning and Noon: A Memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  • Acheson, Dean (1969). Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department. New York: Norton. pp. 798 pp. ASIN B0006D5KRE. 
  • The Korean War (1971),
  • Acheson, Dean (1971). Fragments of My Fleece. New York: Norton. pp. 222 pp. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph C. Grew
Under Secretary of State
1945 – 1947
Succeeded by
Robert A. Lovett
Preceded by
George C. Marshall
United States Secretary of State
Served under: Harry S. Truman

Succeeded by
John Foster Dulles


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dean Gooderham Acheson (April 11, 1893 – October 12, 1971) was United States Secretary of State under President Harry S. Truman. He was known to have played a large part in writing the Truman Doctrine, and was well-known for his anti-Communist views.



  • Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role.
    • Speech at West Point (5 December 1962).
  • I am willing to join in your statement on the ground that I feel about the future of the United States whenever the President starts out on his travels the way the Marshal of the Supreme Court does when he opens a session of that Court. You will recall that he ends up his liturgy by saying "God save the United States for the Court is now sitting."
    • Grapes from Thorns (1972), p. 67.
  • Vietnam was worse than immoral — it was a mistake.
    • Reported in Alistair Cooke, Letter from America: 1946-2004 (2004), p. 378. Sometimes errantly reported in the present tense, e.g. "It is worse than immoral, it's a mistake".

Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1969)

Purpose of the Book

  • "The experiences of the years...have brought the country, particularly its young people, to a mood of depression, disillusion, and withdrawal from the effort to affect the world."
  • In response, Acheson wrote to "tell a tale of large conceptions, great achievements...Its hero is the American people."

State Department Management / Leadership Perspectives

  • "Plainly plenty of work was waiting to be done. The question was: would the State Department do it? I proposed to have a shot at finding out."
  • General Marshall was "impatient with a type of nonsense particularly prevalent in the State Department known as 'kicking the problem around.' All of us who have work with General Marshall have reported a recurring outburst of his: 'Don't fight the problem, gentlemen, solve it!' With him the time to be devoted to analysis of a problem, to balancing 'on the one hand' against 'on the other hand,' was definitely limited. The discussion he wanted was about plans of action "
  • "I must plead guilty as any of escaping into immediate busywork to keep the far harder task of peering into a dim future, which, of course, should be one of a diplomat's main duties."
  • "My of a department without direction, composed of a lot of busy people working hard and usefully but as a whole not functioning as a foreign office. It did not chart a course to be furthered by the success of our arms, or to aid or guide our arms. Rather it seems to have been adrift carried hither and yon by the currents of war or pushed about by collisions with more purposeful craft."
  • "...the Assistant Secretary in Charge of Administration (was) a job which should be undertaken only by a saint or a fool...the House and Senate subcommittees in charge of appropriations, their chairmen, and the Comptroller General's office make this job perfect hell. Like an ill-tempered chatelaine of a medieval manor, her keys hanging from her belt, Congress parsimoniously and suspiciously doles out supplies for the shortest time, each item meticulously weighed and measured, each request at first harshly denied. Almost simultaneously yesterday's accounting goes on amid screamed accusation and denunciation of every purpose of policy."
  • "Among the roles the Budget Bureau (now OMB) was that of constant critic and improver of administration in the federal executive branch. In my day this work had fallen to the products of graduate schools in civil administration. Their ideas...seemed to me theoretical nonsense."
  • "The heads of these divisions, like barons in a feudal system weakened at the top by mutual suspicion and jealousy between king and prince, were constantly at odds if not at war...For the most part the barons were knowledgeable people performing in a way the times had completely outdated, a fact of which they were quite unaware."
  • "I soon discovered that the greater part of a day in Old State was devoted to meetings. Where the boundaries of jurisdiction were fuzzy or overlapping, meetings became inevitable. Most questions affected a number of functional and geographic divisions...These meetings gave the illusion of action, but often frustrated it by attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable. What was most often needed was not compromise but decision."
  • When Acheson was first joined State as Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, he writes the following in a section entitled "My Search for a Function"..."My official duties were summed up in the Department of State Bulletin by misleading platitudes...Both (Secretary) Hull and the President...knew me and, surely, had not asked me into the Department to perform the largely nonexistent duties defined in the Bulletin."
  • "...old inhabitants of the bureaucratic jungle like (Secretary) Hull knew that Cabinet boards and committees were paper tigers. They made a fine show in a parade but soon dissolved in the rain...After attend a few meetings (of this board), the Secretary deputized me to 'explain his absence' and substitute for him."
  • "Not all the arts of diplomacy are learned solely in its practice. There are other exercise yards."
  • "No change (Marshall replacing former SecDef. Louis Johnson, who, soon after he resigned, was diagnosed with a fatal "brain malady") could have been more welcome to me. It brought only one embarrassment. The General (Marshall) insisted, overruling every protest of mine, in meticulously observing the protocol involved in my being the senior Cabinet officer. Never would he go through a door before me, or walk anywhere but on my left; he would go around an automobile to enter it after me and sit on the left; in meetings he would insist on my speaking before him. To be treated so by a revered and beloved former chief was a harrowing experience. But the result in government was, I think, unique in the history of the Republic. For the first time and perhaps, though I am not sure, the last, the Secretaries of State and Defense, with their top advisors, met with the Chiefs of Staff in their map room and discussed common problems together. At one of these meetings General Bradley and I made a treaty, thereafter scrupulously observed. The phrases 'from a military point of view' and 'from a political point of view' were excluded from our talks. No such dichotomy existed. Each of us had our tactical and strategic problems, but they were interconnected, not separate."
  • "In the State Department, one never lacks for helpful suggestions."

Budget Perspectives

  • "Unfortunately, the hyperbole of the inaugural outran the provision of the budget."
  • "President Truman used to say that budget figures revealed far more of proposed policy than speeches."

Truman Doctrine / Cold War

  • 1947, on the situation in Greece: "imminent collapse due to mounting guerrilla activity, supplied and directed from outside, economic chaos, and the Greek governmental inability to meet the crisis."
  • On the need to respond to the crisis in Greece, and broaching the subject of the Truman Doctrine ("it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.") with Congress: "In the past eighteen months, I said, Soviet pressure on the Straits, on Iran, and on northern Greece had brought the Balkans to the point where a highly possible Soviet breakthrough might open three continents to Soviet penetration. Like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and all to the east. It would also carry infection to Africa through Asia Minor and Egypt, and to Europe through Italy and France, already threatened by the strongest domestic Communist parties in Western Europe. The Soviet Union was playing one of the greatest gambles in history at minimal cost. It did not need to will all the possibilities. Even one or two offered immense gains. We and we alone were in a position to break up the play. These were the stakes that British withdrawal from the eastern Mediterranean offered to an eager and ruthless opponent."
  • "Only immediate assertion of leadership by the United States could prevent war in the next decade...The President and the Secretary of State must shock the country into a realization of its peril..."


  • On the France's Indochina involvement: "They were engaged in the most dangerous of all activities – deceiving themselves...France was engaged in a task beyond her strength, indeed, beyond the strength of any external power unless it was acting in support of the dominant local will and purpose."

Foreign Aid

  • "The test for aid to poor nations is therefore whether it makes them capable of being productive. If it fails to do so, it is likely to make them even poorer in the – not so very – long run."

Middle East

  • "I did not share President's view on the Palestine solution...The number that could be absorbed by Arab Palestine without creating a grave political problem would be inadequate, and to transform the country into a Jewish state capable of receiving a million or more immigrants would vastly exacerbate the political problem and imperil not only American but all Western influence in the Near East."
  • "President (Truman) observed (that) 'to asure the Arabs that they would be consulted (prior to official US recognition of Israel) was by no means inconsistent with my generally sympathetic attitudes toward Jewish aspirations.' The Arabs may be forgiven for believing that this did not exactly state the inconsistency as they saw it."
  • "Throughout the Near East lay rare tinder for anti-Western propaganda: a Moslem culture and history, bitter Arab nationalism galled by Jewish immigration under British protection and with massive American financial support, the remnants of a colonial status, and a sense of grievance that a vast natural resource was being extracted by foreigners under arrangements thought unfair to those living on the surface. This tinder could be, and was, lighted everywhere..."


  • "I was a frustrated schoolteacher, persisting against overwhelming evidence to the contrary in the belief that the human mind could be moved by facts and reason."
  • "The position of the United States had undergone a drastic change; the purpose and capabilities of the State Department has not."
  • a "mixture of frustration and progress is the daily grind of foreign affairs."
  • "... the situation was still too delicate for complete candor and the ultimate truth too unformed for statement."
  • "The qualities which produce the dogged, unbeatable courage the British, personified at the time by Winston Churchill, can appear in other settings as stubbornness bordering on stupidity."
  • "The best environment for diplomacy is found where mutual confidence between governments exists..."
  • "The conclusion was...unpalatable to believers in American omnipotence, to whom every goal unattained is explicable only by incompetence or treason."
  • "It is a mistake to interpret too literally and sweepingly the poet's admonition that things are not what they seem. Sometimes they are, and it is often essential to survival to know when they are and when they are not."
  • "... talk should precede, not follow, the issuance of orders."
  • "Force can overcome force, but a free society cannot long steel itself to dominate another people by sheer force."
  • "There is perhaps nothing more important in the world today than the steadiness and consistency of the foreign policy of this Republic. Too much depends on the United States for us to indulge in the luxury of either undue pessimism or premature optimism."
  • "The simple truth is that perseverance in good policies is the only avenue to success..."
  • "My constant appeal to American liberals was to face the long, hard years and not to distract us with the offer of short cuts and easy solutions begotten by good will out of the angels of man's better nature...The road to freedom and peace is a hard one."
  • To State Department employees: "Yours is not an easy task nor one which is much appreciated. You don't ask much of your fellow citizens, and if any of you are so inexperienced that you ever do, you will receive very little. Certainly not much in the form of material recompense; certainly not much in the from of appreciation for your work, because you are dealing with matters which, though they affect life of every citizen of this country intimately, do it in ways which it is not easy for every citizen to understand. And so you are dealing in a field which I called the other day a field of 'alien knowledge,' which seems strange to many of your fellow citizens … We have a tradition in this country of skepticism about government, of looking at it very carefully, of seeing whether our public servants can take it. That isn't always comfortable, but, on the whole, it is good. Any time when there are governments in the world which are crushing the liberties of their citizens, it is good that in this great country people look with some skepticism upon government as such. That is one of our traditions … "
  • Acheson's State Department "comrades...played a vital role in setting the main lines of American foreign policy for many years to come and...they may feel in their hearts that it was nobly done."
  • Acheson "never for one moment believed that the holding of office was a source of power – it was an obligation of service."


  • A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer.
  • The thing is to remember that the future comes one day at a time.
  • Washington is like a self-sealing tank on a military aircraft. When a bullet passes through, it closes up.
  • No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.
    • Quoted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman [1]

External links

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